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Printed Woman

 

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Available Now!

I'm happy to announce that my first forray into science fiction is now available on Amazon in Kindle format, and it paperback. If you buy the paperback, you get the Kindle version for free.

In the distant future, the entire universe is ruled by a king, travel at millions of times the speed of light is possible, and 3D printers can print anything, living or dead. People are printed as slaves, as government officials, and as food for an alien race. When professor Claudia Germanica learns that she was printed, she and two of her students set in motion the wheels of rebellion.

Gracchus Brutus Andronicus, the murderous young son of the Plantagenet Prelate, is tasked with putting down the rebellion. His methods are marked by an impetuousness not tempered by wisdom and experience. The rights of man do not enter into his calculus.

Read an Excerpt

Deleted Scenes

Note from the Author

Book Club Discussion Questions

 


 

Excerpt

Chapter One (partial)

 

Earth-Like Planet No. 27 (ELP-27), orbiting a star near the center of a galaxy 200 million light-years from Earth.

 

The peoplemover snaking above her cast its yellow light over the wet streets like flung gold.  Although raining, which it usually did in the habitable zones of this dreary planet, Claudia chose to walk. She couldn’t stand mass transit, with its soul-crushing hordes jammed into filthy tubes of jaundiced light. The best part about walking was that the streets were deserted, so she had time to think, and space to breathe.

In a doorway cut into the black granite of a monstrous corporate building sat an old man wearing rags and sitting on a sheet of plastic.

“How are you, Frank?” she asked.

He looked up at her with a gray face, dry in spite of the watery world in which he wallowed. “Doing very well, ma’am, thank you for asking.”

They had the same conversation every day.

Frank said, “Can you spare an old man a bit of the monetary unit of this planet?”

She smiled faintly. She had talked to Frank many times and knew that he had been around the galaxy in which this rainy planet and its solar system floated. First as a merchant marine, and then as a soldier. It was the soldiering part that left him begging in wet, deserted streets. She tossed him enough monetary unit to keep him in sandwiches and booze for a day or so.

“Thank you kindly,” Frank said.

She nodded to him. “You’re welcome. Now take care of yourself.”

She had asked Frank once why he sat in the streets when there were social programs and shelters that would take care of him. His only answer was that in the street he was free. On the “inside,” as he called it, he was the minion and slave of the govern­ ment. On the outside, whatever he got was through his own efforts or the charity of others. If he went without, it was for the lack of one of those two things. Either way, no one told him to hold out his hand, or to keep it in his pocket.

She arrived at her apartment building. The security system recognized her and opened the door. She took off her hat, shook water from it, and got into the elevator, which also recognized her and took her to her floor.

Her husband, Martin, met her at the door. “You’re soaked. Don’t you know enough to come out of the rain?”

He kissed her, took her briefcase and hat, and helped her out of her dripping coat.

“You know I hate public transportation,” she said.

Martin hung the coat on a rack. “I’ve never understood that. It’s quicker, and it gets you home relatively dry.”

“It’s the chaos of it. Forget the smell and the germs, I can deal with that. But the whole operation is utter chaos.”

He handed her a towel. “All right. Dry off and change your clothes, we’re about to eat.”

A fat, gray cat lay in a ball on the sofa not bothering to raise its head.

She changed and returned to the dining room. The electronic fireplace mounted to the wall blazed its artificial yet soothing light into the room, and electronic candles burned in silver holders on the table. Mozart streamed quietly from the sound system. All was golden, wood-paneled coziness.

She sat at the table and Martin put a plate in front of her. She leaned over it to take in its smells. Roasted beef with potatoes and green beans. All fresh, rather than the artificial or reconstituted garbage one got at the market. She wasn’t sure where he got the stuff, but there were small agricultural operations that tried to produce food similar to what one still found on Earth.

She was thankful that Martin excelled at this sort of thing. Best of all, next to her plate was a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from a planet, the name of which she could not pronounce, but which was dedicated to the production of fine wine. Something about the soil and its distance from its sun. Maybe a genetic tweak here and there.

She took a forkful of beef. Delicious. She swallowed it with wine. “This is wonderful. You would have been burned for sorcery in an earlier time.”

He smiled. “Thanks, I do my best.”

“How was your day?” she asked.

“Unexciting, as usual. I’m a mathematician, for God’s sake.”

She nodded. “Two exciting people. A professor of philos­ ophy and a mathematician. No wonder all the cat does is sleep.”

He laughed. “Yeah, but look at the luxurious surroundings we have. The kitchen barely has room for two. Four people can fit into the living room, and the bedroom is about the size of one found in a small, cheap hotel.”

“It’s all quite clever, really,” she said. “They give us enough to serve our needs, but just. Take away a centimeter here and a micron there, and the place would not be functional. It’s all meant to keep us quiet. The government can do as it pleases, and no one will complain because they have enough to eat and a decent place to sleep.”

“Be careful, my philosophical friend. It’s cliché, but true: the walls have ears.”

She felt a tinge of guilt. They were on this planet in exile because of her writings. “Indeed.”

“And how was your day?” he asked.

“I had a most interesting visit from one of my students after the lecture today.”

“What was the topic?”

“Everything is a lie.”

He leaned back. “Ah, one of my favorites. That sets certain of them on edge.”

“Yes. You can always tell who the thinkers are, and who either has bought into the whole thing, or who doesn’t care.”

“What did this person want?”

She sipped her wine. “She suggested that the idea of everything being a lie was bullshit.”

“Her words?”

“Yes. Shocking, is it not?”

“It certainly is. It borders on sedition.”

“No. Well, yes, but I mean the fact that she used such lan­ guage with her professor. I remember a day when we garnered some respect.”

He laughed. “I remember you telling me more than once that one or other, or all, of your professors were full of shit.”

“Me?”

“Absolutely.”

She sat back, holding her wine glass by the stem. “At least I was respectful to their faces. It never would have occurred to me to say ‘bullshit’ in front of them.”

“It’s a different world we live in,” he said.

She took a sip of wine. “Indeed.”

 

 

 

 

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Deleted Scenes

One of the hardest things for an author to do is to cut, but it has to be done. The following was Chapter One, but I decided to take it out. Judge for yourself.

 

Original Chapter One

 

“Assume everything is a lie.”

The professor pointed to the hologram displaying an outline of the history of philosophy for the past five thousand years. The black robe of an instructor billowed as he moved.

“That was the view of the thinkers of the third millennium. But what’s wrong with that notion?”

None of the forty students moved. He scanned the room to find only blank looks or the tops of heads, as some of them pretended to be looking at something on their desks. He would need to use the Socratic method. He knew which students would know, and which had no idea what he was talking about. After a renaissance in education during the past hundred years, things were cycling back toward dumbing down to the lowest common denominator.

He chose a boy he knew struggled with the material. Why not beef up the lad’s self-esteem?

“Mr. Islay, what do you think? What’s the problem with that statement?”

The boy stood, as required when called on by the instructor. (At least there was still discipline in school.) He wore the tight, dark green jacket and black trousers of the military class. Short, copper-colored hair glistened under the harsh lights of the classroom. “The statement says to assume that everything is a lie.”

The room had grown silent as the other students peered at him, apparently expecting a dull answer.

“And?”

“That leaves open the possibility that something may not be a lie.”

“Go on.”

“It should simply say: Everything is a lie.”

Claudius Germanicus stood with his pointing stick to his side. “And to whom may can we attribute that idea?”

Islay stood erect, his fingertips resting on the desk in front of him. “Gaius Flavius Andronicus, the Plantagenet Prelate.”

Claudius strolled into the aisle amongst the students. Their gazes followed him. “But, Mr. Islay, what if everything is a lie?”

Islay locked his hands behind his back. “Even the telling of a lie is a lie.”

“And what is a lie, the telling of which is a lie?”

Islay held his head high. “It becomes the truth.”

Claudius nodded and smiled. “You may sit.”

#

Claudius hung his robe on a hook on the back of the door to his study, sat behind his desk, and began to make notes with a pen and paper. He had been working on a treatise for a few years. Although he could dictate to the computer, he preferred this more silent method of writing. Also, writing by hand encouraged economy of words, and other ears could not hear his thoughts. The present regime was not as oppressive as some of those in the past, but it was prudent to keep one’s thoughts quiet. Political circumstances could change at any time.

Someone knocked on the door. He slid his notes into a drawer.

“Come in.”

A young woman from the class he had just finished entered. The heads-up display before him identified her. He recognized the woman, so he turned it off. Ursula.

“Is this a good time?” she asked.

“Of course, please sit down.” He indicated one of the two chairs in front of his desk. “What can I do for you?”

Her youthfulness shone like a holy light, contrasting with the worn-out and tired face that looked back at him in the mirror. It was astounding what a hundred and twenty-five years did to a man.

She considered him with stern, intelligent eyes that looked out from a face the color of porcelain. “I wanted to ask you about everything being a lie.”

“All right.”

“It’s bullshit, isn’t it?”

The forwardness of the question startled him. This was not a political environment in which one called the sayings of the Plantagenet Prelate bullshit. Maybe it was a trap, or a test. He had to be careful. Either this youthful creature did not understand the political situation, did not care or, as is too often the case with the young, thought that by confronting the government they could change it. Would the administration test him by sending a student into his office to boldly declare that one of the basic tenants of this regime was bullshit? Nothing more subtle? Why would he be tested? No matter; they didn’t need a reason. No, the question was as direct as it was subversive. It must be genuine.

On a scrap of paper he wrote, “Yes, of course,” and slid it across his desk for her to read, then pulled it back for destruction. He said, “No, it’s a quote from the Prelate. How can it be bullshit, as you so colorfully put it?”

“Because it doesn’t make any fucking sense.”

Where did these people learn to speak?

“Let me clarify it for you,” he said. “Have you taken any mathematics courses?”

“Yes, of course.”

He leaned back in his chair. “You are familiar, then, with negative numbers.”

“Yes.”

“What is the negative of a negative?”

She frowned. “A positive.”

“There you are. It’s the same thing.”

She took a pen from the cup on his desk. He handed her a scrap of paper. As she wrote he considered her hair, shaved to the scalp all around her head, leaving a carpet of purple at the crown.

She slid the paper to him. On it she had written, “But what can we do about it?”

And then she said, “I see. Thank you.”

He wrote, “Nothing” on the paper, and said, “Any time, that’s what I’m here for.”

She wrote, “Another time,” and said, “Have a nice evening professor. Great lecture, by the way.”

“Thank you. Please close the door on your way out.”

She left, and he destroyed the paper.

 

 

 

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Note from the Author

I had a lot of fun writing this book. It touches on some philosophical ideas relating to human rights and the power of the government, and embodies my philosophy of what science fiction is. That is, just a story about people set sometime in the future and involving inter-galactic travel, and alien contact.

With the exception of hyperluminal travel, I have tried to be true to science as I understand it, limited as that is. If we are to travel around the universe in hours, or even days, we must be able to travel at many (millions) of times the speed of light. The reader has to accept that. I wrote a blog on why that is.

My use of technology is tangential or subordinate to the story. I think it’s a waste of time and can be silly to work too hard to predict what technology would be like. Consider the internet. Thirty years ago, it didn’t exist, except perhaps in the military. Now it rules society.

For more on my thoughts on science fiction, check out my blog.

If you read the book, kindly leave a review on Amazon.

 

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Book Club Discussion Questions

1. What did you like best about this book?

2. What did you like least about this book?

3. What other books did this remind you of?

4. Which characters in the book did you like best?

5. Which characters did you like least?

6. If you were making a movie of this book, who would you cast?

7. Share a favorite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out?

8. What other books by this author have you read? How did they compare to this book?

9. Would you read another book by this author? Why or why not?

10. What feelings did this book evoke for you?

11. What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add?

12. If you got the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?

14. Which character in the book would you most like to meet?

15. Which places in the book would you most like to visit?

16. What do you think of the book’s title? How does it relate to the book’s contents? What other title might you choose?

17. What do you think of the book’s cover?

18. What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was he or she trying to get across?

19. How original and unique was this book?

20. If you could hear this same story from another person’s point of view, who would you choose?

21. What artist would you choose to illustrate this book? What kinds of illustrations would you include?

23. How well do you think the author built the world in the book?

24. Did the characters seem believable to you? Did they remind you of anyone?

25. Did the book’s pace seem too fast/too slow/just right?

26. If you were to write fanfiction about this book, what kind of story would you want to tell?

27. Did you see any symbolism in the book? If so, what was it?

28. Was there a message in the book? What was it?

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"The peoplemover snaking above her cast its yellow light over the wet streets like flung gold."